Long-time UAE resident Maxine Braddock doesn't mind spending Dh300 to Dh400 on a meal in a fine-dining restaurant. Even when Covid hit, "eating out never stopped", she said.
"I really like the culinary scene in Dubai. I eat out every weekend which includes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and at least one day in the middle of the week," said the expat, whose dining habits reflected what a recent survey has found.
In a poll, more than half of Dubai residents (52 per cent) said they dine out up to three times per week. The respondents also ranked the emirate as the world’s top gastronomy hub, ahead of London and New York.
With Covid restrictions eased and mask-wearing made optional in most public spaces across the country, more residents are expected to enjoy meals outside their homes.
"I have never been much bothered about Covid-19 except for the time when the lockdown happened. But now with the easing of restrictions, I understand more people would want to go out and eat out," said Maxine, who has been living in the country for 13 years now.
Another expat, Hozefa Arsiwala, agrees that the eating-out trend would be back in full swing. "I end up eating out during meetings at least twice a week — apart from weekends. My family loves Indian and Arabic cuisine," she said.
For some families, Covid rules were never an issue when eating out.
American expat Shukri Deria said: “I don’t think going to the restaurants have made a difference whether or not mask restrictions have been lifted...We usually go out to the restaurant once a week as a family. My children like The Cheesecake Factory so we go there most often. Sometimes, I meet my friends and we go to places like P.F. Chang’s or Asha’s or something different."
Restaurant owners have seen a significant spike in reservations now that Covid rules have been relaxed. Crowded tables are back along with live music.
Over the last 24 hours, some venues have already seen an uptick in enquiries about private events. This is the case at High Note Pool & Sky Lounge Aloft Mina, according to Hari Kaimal, CEO of Goldmead Hospitality.
"Waiving off mask requirements will result in better revenues for the F&B industry as a whole, especially as we step into the busy season. (The increase in enquiries) indicates people are already cheering this decision. We plan to continue the sanitisation measures and mask requirements for food service providers stringently, across all our venues," Kaimal said.
The same increase has been observed at the Yummy Dosa eatery.
"Within two days of the announcement, we have seen an upsurge trend in the restaurant bookings. This has given us as a brand further confidence to open our third outlet; as we are seeing the eating out pattern coming back to pre-Covid levels," said Jugal Parekh, managing director at Yummy Dosa.
Amit Gupta, managing partner at Old Castello Jumeirah, said the decision to relax restrictions comes at the right time.
"With the active season coming ahead, the news of lifting face masks restrictions will boost the confidence of diners at our restaurant...Old Castello has been a go-to place for many who would like to catch some live sports screening action and live music nights. Now, customers would be able to enjoy a place like ours even better… and we can see a positive attitude in the customers with more queries for our Shisha deals and live music nights," Gupta said.
"With the sports season coming up, with two major World Cups, it’s really a time for sports lovers to come back in larger groups and enjoy without restrictions.”
Residents say that while some restaurants could set diners back by the hundreds, the average cost is still relatively affordable.
Hozefa said her family of three spend around Dh200-250 at places like The Yellow Chilli, Gazebo and India Palace where the average spend for a family of three is around Dh200-250.
With all the available promos, prices at good restaurants across the country are still reasonable, said Maxine.
"I feel like if you are an expat living here and earning in dirhams, it’s not much, frankly. My brother who is coming from the UK was asking me about how expensive food is here? He was calculating it in pounds saying it is 60 to 80 pounds which he found pricey. But I feel that as an expat based in the UAE, and with the available discounts and the Entertainer offers, it’s still quite reasonable," she said.
Many residents are also taking a day off from work due to the unforeseen situation
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